Luke Shaw admitted to Erik ten Hag that he deserved to be dropped before rediscovering his best form, including keeping Erling Haaland quiet as a makeshift centre-back during the Manchester derby.
Shaw was benched by Ten Hag following a 4-0 defeat to Brentford in August and was replaced in the team by summer signing Tyrell Malacia.
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The England defender didn’t start another game until a 2-1 win at Everton on Oct. 9, but has become a key figure in United’s revival as they’ve put together a run of nine straight wins.
“I like that he’s so honest,” Ten Hag said. “After the second game he didn’t play and said: ‘I fully understand, my performance is not right.’
“You can see when he has the right approach he’s a top player. I don’t mean only as a team player, he’s a leader. He’s shown a lot of leadership capacities — he’s the example at this moment — and with his skills and with his physical power he brings a lot to the team.
“He’s an example of how to win big games. I’m really happy with his development. I think it’s been huge either at centre-half or left full-back, he’s a great player and a great personality for the dressing room.”
Since returning from the World Cup, Shaw has occasionally been used as a centre-back by Ten Hag and was picked ahead of Argentina World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez for the 2-1 win over Manchester City on Saturday.
It pitted Shaw against Haaland, who has scored 27 goals already this season and got a hat trick against United in October, but the Norway striker had a quiet game, failing to score in a Premier League fixture for just the fifth time.
“It is a big decision, but I think when you analyze the profile of Haaland and the combination with [Kevin] De Bruyne it was also the right decision because Luke has the physical power to compete with them and also has the tactical view to make the right decision and technical skills to play in that position,” Ten Hag said.
“So I think [against City] it matched really well, but I think in other games he can contribute even more on the left in the wide positions so it’s a tactical choice and we can see from game to game what we need.
“I think we have more players in our squad who have the capacity to be multi-functional and we can use that as a weapon in games.”